Alerts Energy Nuclear 5 October, 2023 6:45 am   

Canadians eager to join SMR projects in Poland

Elektrownia-z-reaktorami-BWRX-300 Power plant with BWRX-300 reactors. Visualization by GE Hitachi

A Canadian supplier of nuclear fuel and components is ready to provide them to Poland if Warsaw decides to build GE Hitachi reactors. The Polish SMR project is in the making and Poland’s Orlen and Synthos are involved as well. Meanwhile, GE Hitachi, which provides the reactor technology, is focusing on a project in Canada and is monitoring how the situation will develop in Poland.

BWX Technologies (BWXT) has been around for 150 years. It provides reactors to submarines and aircraft carriers. The company cooperates with NASA on nuclear propulsion for space exploration and with the U.S. armed forces to make the military independent of fossil fuels. BWXT has already built about 400 reactors for this purpose.

It could also provide fuel for small nuclear reactors, such as GE Hitachi’s BWRX-300, which could be built in Poland by Orlen and Synthos, and produced at the Ontario Power Generation’s Darlington plant in Ontario, Canada. OPG is working with Tennessee reactor operator TVE and Orlen Synthos Green Energy to develop a standard model of the small BWRX-300 reactor for deployment in various locations around the world.

“Small nuclear reactors on submarines operate like SMRs in private projects. Our business focuses on governmental procurements, but it can also grow in the private sector. If it’s a commercial project, we can get involved, ” John R. Macquarie, president of BWX Technologies, told reporters at the company’s HQ in Toronto.

BWXT will supply GE Hitachi with the reactor body for the BWX-300 reactor, which is to be built first in Canada and then possibly in Poland, thanks to the cooperation between Orlen Synthos Green Energy with GE Hitachi. “If we want to build a reactor in a few years, we need to order the materials now,” Macquarie said. If BWXT receives the contract, it can start ordering materials in the fourth quarter of 2023. The Canadian reactor is expected to be ready in 2028.

The construction of the body needed for the new reactor takes “a few years”. “The comfortable scenario is 3.5 years after the order is received,” Mr. Macquarie stated. He estimated that his company could produce about six components of this type per year. “In the coming years, outside of Darlington, there will be a number of power plants with small reactors, the construction of which is to begin. There will be two or three projects outside of Canada,” he said.

BWXT estimates that the GE Hitachi reactor could be licensed in Canada in a few years. “NuScale (VOYGR technology considered by Poland’s KGHM-ed.) took 5-6 years to develop the project. GE Hitachi is probably closer to this goal, because the reactor they are developing is in its 10th generation. They will be able to deal with the license more quickly,” Mr. Macquarie explained.

“We will be happy to cooperate with Polish companies on a scale that will be possible. There is no developed supply chain yet, but we have done it many times in countries without such a chain, such as Romania or Argentina ,” said the BWXT President in response to a question from “We can work with local companies when it comes to the components or management,” he promised.

“We are focused on meeting the demand in Darlington. We are before the final decision on this matter and it will occupy us in the near future. If there is more interest in the U.S. or Europe, we will look for cooperation, ” John R. Macquarie concluded . In his opinion, BWXT could also provide materials for the large-scale nuclear project led by Polish Nuclear Power Plants (PEJ), Westinghouse and Bechtel, as the company previously participated in such projects in Italy.

Lisa McBride, country leader at GE Hitachi for SMR Technologies in Canada, responsible for implementing the BWRX-300 SMR technology in Canada, spoke about the work of her team of 120 people on this solution. “Ontario Power Generation is a great partner to build the first reactor with, but the topic of projects in Poland came up just two weeks after the OPG decision,” McBride said.

“Our project is an iteration of an existing technology. We are not new to this business, ” said a the GEH representative. 20 people from this company are working on licensing the BWRX-300 technology in Canada, which gives her reason to hope that the project will be completed on time and on budget. The OPG experience also helps.

“OSGE is a quick learner. The schedule depends on licensing, but Poland will be able to draw from cooperation with four partners (OSG, TVE, OSGE, GEH- ed.). Exchanging experience from the first project and cooperation between Polish and Canadian regulators will also be important,” the GEH leader said. “If a reactor were to start operating in another country in 2029, preparations would have to start as soon as possible. For now, our team is focused on Canada, but we want to use this experience on other projects, but we do not want them to collide with each other,” she said.

The license of the Canadian regulator for BWRX-300 technology at the OPG facility in Darlington is scheduled to be granted around December 2024. That’s when the construction would start as well. Preparatory work is currently underway to level the ground and provide the necessary ancillary facilities.

OSGE, a joint venture of Orlen and Synthos Green Energy, would like to have the first BWRX-300 reactor in 2029.

Wojciech Jakóbik